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Fee petition prep questioned

In our week’s worth of trend-spotting, we noted on Tuesday that law firm cutbacks and the recessionary climate may have scrambled firm workloads, with unexpected consequences for lawyers who try to get fee awards approved in court.

Bingo. Last month, an Alexandria U.S. District Court knocked down a lawyer’s fee award under the Lanham Act because partners at the winning firm “billed more time to the case than the more affordable associates and paralegals.” Judge James C. Cacheris found no fault with DiMuroGinsberg’s billing rates in Employers Council on Flexible Compensation v. Feltman, but he did find that DG and co-counsel Hogan & Hartson cranked litigation hours that were “excessive” and showed “a failure to exercise billing judgment.”

The priciest lawyer in the case “billed more hours than any other attorney on the case,” over 40 percent of the total hours, Cacheris said. The judge also said the top-paid partner appeared to do most of the prep of the fee petition at $400 an hour, including “preparation of the seven tables and the assembly of several hundred pages of exhibits.”

Cacheris halved the requested fee for petition prep, from $16,012.50 to $8,006.25. For the overall fee for the injunction and $20,000 in damages the lawyers won for their client, who had been the victim of corporate identity theft, Cacheris awarded not the nearly $560,000 the lawyers sought, but $292,500.

By Deborah Elkins

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